Troy Perry had fallen deeply in love with a young man named Benny. Perry was stunned when Benny came home one day and announced the relationship was over.
I looked at him and I asked, “Benny, is it really over?” He looked at me, and smiled, and said, “Yes, It is.” And it sounded so final. My world just came tumbling down. I felt so completely lost.
I felt like a total failure at everything. I felt that there was no one I could talk to. I felt shut off from everyone. Nothing seemed worth anything anymore. Nothing had any value. There seemed to be no future. Only darkness.
But I wanted to pull myself together. I went into the bathroom and shaved. And then I started crying. I just couldn’t stop. I sat down and sobbed. I felt naked, and there was absolutely no one around me. I felt deserted by everyone and everything that I had ever known. It was hopeless—useless to even try to go on. I couldn’t even remember God. I felt as though God did not exist, so why even try to pray? I had lost something — someone — I had loved more than anything else in the world.
That was the problem, of course. Benny had taken God’s place. I had equated him with God. I had allowed him to take the place of God in my life. I had made the mistake of placing a human being before God.
In my despair, I felt that I had no choices open to me. There was no tomorrow. There was not even the present. I got up and tried to pull myself together. I opened the medicine cabinet. The first thing I saw was the razor blade. I took it in my hands. I stared at it. This was the instrument of the Angel of Death. I staggered. I managed to get into the tub; I felt totally numb. Somehow I managed to slowly and deliberately press the blade through the skin and into the flesh of my wrists. The veins popped and yielded up their dark fluid. It was thicker than I expected, and darker. I had physical sensations of numbness growing upon me. I drifted off to sleep, even though I was not at all aware of it.
The dream drifted on; I had a sense of being alive, but of being asleep, of drifting, of fading, and of being heavier and heavier. The dream became a troubled nightmare. Somewhere out there I could hear screaming. Scream after scream filtered through to me, but I couldn’t respond.
Later, I learned that Benny, the person with whom I had broken up, had come into the bathroom and discovered me in the grisly mess I had made. He screamed and ran next door to the neighbors. Well, my neighbor Marianne and a couple of her sons charged in there and took over. They tied my wrists up with cloths and rushed me off to the emergency hospital. I ended up at the Los Angeles County General Hospital.
By the time I got there, I had regained consciousness and I had really gone all to pieces. I didn’t know whether I would live or die. And I was scared. If ever I went through a nervous breakdown, that must have been it. I cried for at least three hours while waiting for some kind of medical attention. The emergency cases were really lined up.
Well, I was sitting there, crying uncontrollably, when someone walked in front of me and stood there for a minute. I was aware of this person, like a shadow before me. This person reached down and stuck a religious magazine into my hands and said, “Here. Some of us care about you!”
I looked up dumbly, and stared at this black woman. Her words hit me like a slap in the face. It snapped me out of my depression, just to hear that someone cared.
Then the woman turned and left. I never knew her name, but when I was aware that she had gone, I remembered God. My mind started working, just like someone had thrown a switch inside it. I finally recalled that I had forgotten all about God. There was still God. It had been so long since I really knew absolutely that God did exist.
I stopped crying, I looked at my soggily bandaged wrists and said, “All right, Lord, I’ve made some terrible mistakes. You just help me with them.” I felt a weight go out of my life. My whole attitude toward God and death and life had shifted. I knew that God cared about me and that God was with me, all the way – wherever that would lead me.
During those days, I grew to rely heavily on my friend and roommate, Willie Smith, who took a keen interest in me. He’d been working the night I had tried to commit suicide. He didn’t know anything about it until noon the next day. It shook him. But he stood by me.
And my next-door neighbors were of great help. Marianne and her sons were so eager to help me. They kept a close watch on me. One of Marianne’s great friends was a black woman who was a minister and of whom she often spoke. Well, I finally met her minister friend. She was small and direct, and her name was Vera Hockset. And she was truly amazing. She had remarkable, God-given insight into people’s lives.
So one Sunday afternoon, I finally met Vera. She asked how everything was going with me. And I said, “Oh I’m just fine.” She looked at me directly and said, “Well, not really.” Well, that shook me up a little.
I talked with Vera and her sincerity moved me and touched my heart somehow. Vera went on,
“Do you have some relative that was a minister? A deceased relative?
I told her, “Yes, I had a great-uncle who is deceased, and he was a Pentecostal minister.”
Vera went on to say, “You’re a minister. You always have been, and it won’t be long before you will be pastoring a church.”
I just laughed. I said, “No, I’ll never pastor a church.” She looked sternly at me and said, “Oh, yes you will. God has a ministry for you.”
That stunned me. All my life I’d always been told that by people who really knew me. And here was a total stranger telling me the same thing. My Auntie Bea used to say the same thing over and over. I remembered that Auntie Bea had one time said, “The Lord has a ministry for you. A great ministry, but it won’t be the church you’re currently in.”
I smiled at Vera and said, “No, that’ll never happen.”
But she topped my smile with one of her own that came from her own basic understanding and warmth. She started to tell me many things about myself — she told me more than anyone could possibly have known about me. It really rocked me, and I knew that his was no ordinary woman.
She had powers of insight that must have come from God.
During this time I prayed a great deal. And the Lord began to deal with me. Things became easier. My attitudes shifted. Finally with God’s help and understanding, I became convinced that He was moving me to a mission, that a vision of that mission would be revealed to me. And I knew that when it came, I must never look back; I would never have to. My journey would be forward. My course would be clear. I would know my work. It would be hard, but I would spend my life at it.
Next: MCC History – Part Two